Kid immigrants have been arriving alone since Ellis Island

kidsellisislandIn 1892, the first immigrant to enter the U.S. at the new Ellis Island immigration facility was an unaccompanied 15-year-old minor.

Not only was she not greeted by howling racists, their faces distorted with unfathomable rage, but she got a certificate and a gold coin.

Bill Moyers reports:

An unaccompanied child migrant was the first person in line on opening day of the new immigration station at Ellis Island Her name was Annie Moore, and that day, January 1, 1892, happened to be her 15th birthday. She had traveled with her two little brothers from Cork County, Ireland, and when they walked off the gangplank, she was awarded a certificate and a $10 gold coin for being the first to register.

Mas…Kid immigrants have been arriving alone since Ellis Island

American Jews: Maybe your grandparents were ‘illegals’ too (audio)

In my family, they say that Abuelo Abraham Saenz, wearing his WWI U.S. Army uniform, “smuggled” one of his sisters (photo, above) into the country via the Port of Philadelphia, wrapping the girl up in a fur coat so she looked like a rich lady.

The scheme was “dress to impress” so the MIGRA wouldn’t think to question her bonafides. She was illiterate, the story goes, and that wasn’t kosher for poor Jewish would-be immigrants from Ukraine in the early 1900s. The rich bitch trick worked, my great aunt got through immigration and everyone lived happily ever after.

Our family story, it turns out, isn’t unique. There were poor Jews who sneaked across the Mexican border near El Paso, and families smuggled in the cargo holds of ships packed with illegal Cuban rum during Prohibition.

Tablet Magazine explains:

Mas…American Jews: Maybe your grandparents were ‘illegals’ too (audio)

Hey, Mr. Anti-Immigration Man, can we see your grandpa’s papers?

Bend the Arc, a Jewish social justice organization, just introduced an online legal widget that applies immigration laws to your family’s history. Answer some questions and the Entry Denied widget determines if your immigrant ancestors would be allowed into the U.S. today.

And guess what:

Millions of Americans have grown up with a defining family immigration story. But while our families may have endured hardship coming to America, the simple fact is that most of our immigration stories would not be possible at all under today’s immigration laws.

Mas…Hey, Mr. Anti-Immigration Man, can we see your grandpa’s papers?